Wednesday, February 1


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Gambia’s Drug Law Enforcement Agency (DELAG) has denied reports reaching this medium allegedly suggesting that the three tons of cocaine that was seized earlier this year, is being secretly smuggled to Europe, describing the report as false and totally unfounded. “It is a laughable allegation and with all honesty, it beats every bit of common sense. This is a drug that is secured at a location that is placed under 24 hours armed guard and the people who are holding arms to guard this drug are not officers that are under me, or under Director General, they are officers under the Inspector General of police, and they are not one, they are not two, they are not three, but five. That is number one, number two, While these drugs are seized and taken to where they are, the drugs were locked with padlock, an independent welding man was invited and he welded everywhere, the doors again, in addition to the lock, they are welded and in addition to that we had to hire a winch to come and place the four other containers around this container to engulf it, just to give it zero access. But in addition to that we have to request for arm guards to go and secure these drugs,” Mr. Lamin Gassama, DELAG’S Director of intelligence and international cooperation told Freedom Newspaper in an exclusive interview on Friday.

Director Gassama’s rebuttal followed a report and pictures we received from a concerned Gambian, who claimed that the seized drugs are being secretly smuggled outside the country.

“Gambia we are finished. Lamin Gassama and his boss they are distributing it all over Europe. Gambia, the future of our children is in danger, the people who have to secure our nation against drug are busy distributing the tons. I am appealing to all good citizens to work together and fight drug in our land because Gambia is very small for the destruction of drug,” he wrote in a text message sent to the Freedom Newspaper Editor.

However, his claims could not be independently verified.

What is clear though, Interior Minister Yankuba Sonko recently told Parliament that the seized cocaine is under 24 hours security guard protection. He also said some of the accused persons are going to court, while the main suspect Banta Kaira is on the run. Sonko also told deputies that an Interpol arrest warrant has been issued against Banta Kaira. Banta’s bank accounts have also be frozen, he said.

In a bid to verity the veracity of his allegations against the two DELAG top Directors Bakary Gassama, and Lamin Gassama, we contacted the DELAG spokesman Ousman Saidybah for comment. Mr. Saidybah said the allegations could be false, but he asked to be given time to get in touch with his superiors at DELAG.  He later called back and reported this message:

“I have spoken to our Directors, as far as they are concerned, the drugs are safe, they are secured for 24 hours armed guard and they still go by the statement that the Minister made yesterday. And if the source is very sure about the information that he is saying let him provide the command with information,” Saidybah remarked.

After speaking to us, Spokesman Saidybah, was able to facilitate the Freedom Newspaper to speak to his boss Lamin Gassama.

Gassama was receptive, transparent, honest, and open minded when we reached him for comment.

When asked as to why he has the perception that someone was out to tarnish their image with such a disturbing allegation, Director Gassama had to this say:

“I don’t perceive, I am not giving you a perception, I am giving you a statement of fact, it is unfounded, it is false. Perhaps, Pa, I try to be very careful in alleging people, but as a human being, the human being is a human being, but I can reasonably suspect where this kind of allegation would be coming from,” Gassama told me.

Gassama hinted that those behind what he called the “unfounded allegations”, could be some insiders, who are currently under his radar for a misconduct probe.

“Last week, I started a very interesting and sensitive investigation and people knew what that investigation will bring to them and they knew the serious of with which this is taking because just to make sure that everything is transparent and done professionally, I have to write with the permission of the Director General and incorporate the judiciary, and incorporate somebody from the Ministry of Justice, so that we go through the process, looking at the sensitivity of what we are doing. So, the people who are involved we are yet to talk to them, we only do a mapping, but they are alert right now, but they knew what the investigation is going to unfold around them. So, I believe as a human being, I am not confirming as a person, I believe that may be the reason would start up and to go and start doing this kind of fabricated information. But I will expect that they should go for a more sensible thing, not something that commonsense will reject.  And in addition, I can offer you an option, if you have a trusted agent in The Gambia, call the person, I will personally escort him to where the container is, and he see,” he remarked.

Mr. Gassama added that the officers case has nothing to do with the seized three tons of cocaine.

“This is internal. It is different from the three-tons of cocaine. The investigation may related to certain officers of ours,” he told me.

When asked whether the officers were being investigated in connection with drug trafficking related issue, Gassama declined to answer in the affirmative.

“I cannot tell you whether they are link to drug trafficking or not, but what I can tell you is, once we done with the investigations, you will see the results and they knew what it means,” he said.

“We did the marking, we have some documents, we are going review that and then we start interviews. It may not be so quick, but it is quiet sensitive,” he added.

Gassama said once the investigations are done, the public would be informed.

“We are investigating certain reports that we have against certain conduct, so, the investigation would determine it is a particular officer, or is not an officer, but very likely it would be officers,” he pointed out.

When quizzed on the case of fugitive Banta Keita, The Gambian French national, who has been linked to the seized three tons cocaine, Gassama said he is optimistic that Banta Kaira would be arrested sooner or later.

“What I can assure is that Banta is a person of interest, and I am working with partners, who are very, very keen in assisting us get him arrested. I have a very good and wide international network and perhaps, Banta would be arrested earlier than one expects, that is my hope, from the trend we are taking, that’s my hope, I am very, very optimistic. I don’t have worries when it comes to my investigation because I know what I am doing, I am comfortable with what I am doing, and I know I deal with people, who are determined to help, and they are equally concerned,” Gambia’s antinarcotic intelligence and international Cooperation Director remarked.

When asked as to how comes that no one knows Banta in The Gambia, that Banta is a stranger, people don’t know him, in response Gassama said:

“Absolutely, It is good you raised that because Banta is kind of a very strange character, nobody knows Banta, perhaps, this guy knew he is into crime and try to work out a very, very small network. You will be surprised that even the people he needs to go and do some minor work at home, he will not even talk to them directly, he will talk to Sheriff Njie, and Sheriff Njie will talk to those people and they will go, he don’t relate. And another thing we discovered is that Banta have a very deceptive personality,” he said.

“This is the guy, who is very religious, he is not the outgoing type, he is not the party type, he will be keeping fast, he prays, and he is a very magnanimous somebody. He has a deceptive personality, from the people he interacted with when you interview them, you will see that what he portrays to them, everybody was shocked that he is capable of doing this,” he added.

Further quizzed as to what happened to Banta’s wife?

“The wife is here. His wife is here,” he said.

Was she interrogated?

“Yes, she was interrogated,” Gasssama responded.

And what was she telling you guys?

She didn’t know that what she said.

Do you believe that?

“Whether I believe it or not, the law like I said, is somewhere, I will send it to you also, drugs unlike treason does not place an obligation on anybody to report. Even I come to you and say Pa Nderry, I have 20 tons of cocaine and you keep quiet, and I am arrested with 20 tons and I say I informed Pa Nderry, you are not under obligation to come and report. It is just that you may want to act as good citizen and you and report a case,” Gassama remarked.

Gassama pointed out that people complicit to drug trafficking cannot scot free, adding that such people would face the full brunt of the law.

On the assets owned by Banta, Gassama said pretty soon something will happened, as such assets could be seized by the state. He said Gambians will hear from him sometime next week on issues relating to assets that Banta had acquired in The Gambia.

Gassama said Sheriff Njie’s case was mentioned in court and it is pending.

What happened to the 225kg 600 grams Hashish case?

According to Gassama, the High court in Banjul, presided over by Justice Oledi Uko Uduma, has sentenced the three accused persons, who have been linked to that drug case to a fine of one million dalasis each. Ousman Kanteh, Ebrima Bittaye and Sedia Ndow were convicted and sentenced to a fine of one million dalasis each on May 31st, 2021, failure of which, he said, they were supposed to serve five years in jail. He added that the convicts have paid their fines as ordered by the court.

“The hashish case was sent to the Ministry of Justice for legal opinion, and they charged these people to court, they were charged at the High court and they pleaded guilty to the charge and they were all convicted, and they were fined each one million dalasis and the drugs that were involved in transaction were forfeited,” Mr. Gassama told Freedom Newspaper.

“I give my life, efforts, and skills to this agency, but this is why I am not bothered, no amount of allegation will move me,” he added.

Gassama pointed out that his DG Bakary Gassama hardly sees seized drugs. He said the drugs are usually stored outside their office.

He added that the concerned citizen who contacted us probably has a hidden agenda, perhaps the person behind the false allegations, is aware of the agency’s plans to destroy a huge quantity of drugs, scheduled for tomorrow Saturday.

“Tomorrow is going to be destruction, we are destroying about four tons of cannabis, about a total worth of D25 million dalasis worth of drugs,” Gassama told Freedom Newspaper.

Written By Pa Nderry M’Bai


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